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OLED vs. 4K: Which Is Better for Your Clients' Digital Signage Displays?

May 27, 2017

OLED vs. 4K: Which Is Better for Your Clients' Digital Signage Displays?

In the race to come up with the biggest and the best in digital signage installations, solution providers field questions from clients as to which displays offer the best bang for the buck in terms of price, quality and overall wow factor. Lately there’s been lot of debate as to which digital display is better at showcasing high-quality graphics and video. It seems like two candidates are vying for that title?4K and organic light-emitting diode (OLED) displays.

Each type of display has its pros and cons when it comes to suitability for certain types of digital signage deployments, but each type also is capable of transforming a so-so installation into a stunner.

Here are a few points for you and your clients to consider:

Design

The trend in 4K displays toward smaller bezels and a thinner overall footprint continues to attract digital signage installers and clients eager to create video walls that appear almost seamless.  

But manufacturers of OLED displays don’t need to include a backlight, because each organic pixel emits its own light. That results in displays that are incredibly thin and lightweight. A 55-inch 4K display, for example, weighs about 40 pounds, while a similar OLED display weighs in at about 28 pounds.

Price

Back in 2014, 4K UHD and OLED displays were both expensive, topping $1,000 for a 55-inch 4K consumer-grade display, for instance. But since then, prices have plummeted, especially for 4K displays.

At this time, a decent 4K display can be had for around $700 at several discount brick-and-mortar retailers. OLED, however, is a different matter entirely. Although prices have come down significantly in the past few years, an OLED display is still several times more expensive than a 4K display of similar size and with similar features and inputs/outputs.

A decent OLED display with all the bells and whistles still runs about $3,000 (on sale) at big-box retailers?more than four times its 4K counterpart.

Image  Quality

Early on, 4K displays trumped OLED in resolution, because they were able to display content in UHD, which meant that digital signage designers were able to put an installation together that could be viewed at farther distances than those for OLED, which typically displayed content in 2K resolution.

But OLEDs today are able to match 4K and even best them in color saturation, black levels, motion blur and viewing-angle tolerances. Because OLEDs don’t rely on a backlight, and the light source is closer to the glass, they have a much wider viewing angle, meaning a wider tolerance for placement when installed in public places.

Another difference is, with OLED displays, the pixels light themselves, so when they’re off, they’re really off, and emit no light. That means OLED’s blacks are perfectly black. 4K displays, on the other hand, rely on a backlighting system to illuminate the panel. Even the deepest blacks on a 4K display are illuminated at least a little, and the lighting is never perfectly uniform, which means generally lighter blacks.

The verdict

Both 4K and OLED units make excellent displays for digital signage solutions. They both can be relied on in order to render excellent video and static images with few hiccups, and both are highly deployable for indoor use.

But the similarities stop there. A few leaders in OLED manufacturing are producing transparent OLED displays, meaning that the wow factor can be taken up a notch as marketers find new, creative ways to deploy these displays for eye-catching installations.